It’s 6:30 am on Tuesday morning. Emma just finished her 6-month anniversary with the company, where she landed a huge account. She’s meeting with her team early to get a jump start on Thursday’s client kick off, so she’s in a bit of a rush to beat morning traffic. As she gets ready for work, Emma realizes she forgot to get Cooper (her 2-year old Golden Retriever) his food, favorite treats and replacement toy for the long work weeks ahead. And to make it better, she didn’t have time to go shopping this weekend for a replacement headset. Of course, with the upcoming kickoff, Emma has no time to get what she needs is what goes through her mind as she battles traffic to get to work.
How many of us have faced this same dilemma?
On the news into work, Emma hears a statement about micro markets and the proliferation of self-service retail helping to address labor shortages in her area becoming a $46 billion global industry by 2027.
But what does that have to do with Emma’s morning dilemma. Here’s how:
How Self-Serve Automated Retail provides convenient grab and go capabilities
Emma lives in a downtown condo. Recently, the condo upgraded their lobby with self-serve automated solutions – ranging from BOPIS (buy online pick up in store) smart lockers to vending units to a grab-n-go food emporium. For those not familiar, BOPIS lockers allow the secure, personalized storage of a variety of consumer products once ordered online until shoppers can pick up at their convenience. Using a simple, intuitive interface, consumers are guided through a 3-4 click step process and voila, they collect what they ordered in under a minute – no wait times, totally fitting into their schedule.
These same individuals can use the same touch screens with a similar 3-4 click step process to grab in-demand products, like replacement headsets, on the spot from the vending machines next to the BOPIS lockers. And, if they want to grab a quick bite to go, they can enter the contactless, grab-n-go food area and be out in minutes with a variety of food and beverage choices.
Going back to Emma, she arrives at work, but before meeting with her team, she pops on to a few websites and then places a quick order for Cooper and her headset. But wait, the last time she ordered something that was delivered to her condo, they stored it on a general rack in the office where it got damaged. Emma is ordering from two different retailers and really doesn’t want to go through that again (the returns were a hassle). Emma places a quick call to the Business Office in her condo, and they assure her that her previous experience is no longer an issue. Why? Because Retailers are teaming up with Delivery Services/Drivers, such as Uber and DoorDash, to bring products – not just food – to people. And the BOPIS Smart Lockers they chose in their lobby allow multiple Delivery Drivers to drop off their packages into the Lockers with full traceability and accountability. Emma can now finish her order and then proceed to her meeting knowing that all of her items will be safely and securely waiting for her in the lobby this evening.
Now imagine you could do the same during your 1-hour train ride home – order from your phone and have it waiting for you at the train station when you arrive. Or, if you forget something after you’ve left the store 25 mins ago, order from your phone and pick it up later that evening from your lobby or porch.
So how is this all possible?
Because leading retailers are connecting their e-commerce and online ordering platforms with point-of-sale, payment and order fulfillment capabilities, including those of multiple delivery services, to bring consumers one integrated, unified shopping experience. And at Signifi Solutions are proud to be working with many of these leading retailers to leverage our proprietary, cloud-based software (SignifiVISION) and robust solutions portfolio to bring this reality to market.
But remember Emma’s not so great experience with Returns – what then?
One of the biggest emerging trends plaguing these same retailers is how do process returns with the same convenient, seamless experience as they are enabling the picking up of orders. This is because of the rise of sophisticated consumers who are finding new ways to “game the system” – in other words, fraud and abuse. Everywhere we go, we hear stories of how people are returning damaged products, but claiming they are in great condition to warrant full refunds.
So how do we use self-serve automation to process refunds as easily as order fulfillment, while preventing this type of fraud?
At the risk of oversimplifying, it’s a matter of integration between consumer experience, workflows, return policy, verification methods of product and condition, reverse payment integration and inventory management. With Signifi Solutions, we are able to integrate sensors, cameras, audio-video conferencing, augmented reality and a variety of other security recognition technologies to bridge the digital and physical worlds to address product returns and refunds.
We’ve also heard many experts say that AI technology is best to address these challenges. AI technologies have advanced, and there are numerous benefits to exploring. However, depending on where retailers are at in their AI Adoption Curve, the fact is that they can use market ready Self-Serve technologies today to deliver the above without waiting for AI to get started. Just like with shoppers, the Journey is equally important to the destination – and there are numerous ways to get started before incorporating AI into the equation.
Think of it this way – both sides of the equation (order fulfillment and returns) can all be accomplished by finding the right balance between convenience, variety and time – with the goal being to deliver seamless, flawless quality, service and experiences to consumers, while addressing savings, resource constraints and revenue growth from micro-channels for retailers.
Tying it all together
For Emma and millions of other consumers, micro-retail markets with self-service technologies are making a real difference in their daily lives.
As a consumer, you can order online and deliver to your home or you can go into a store and shop – but with self-serve, you can now also realize a variety of options in between. As a retailer, you can now reach whole new demographics with a variety of non-traditional locations, ranging from airports and metro stations to hotels, office/apartment buildings, schools, concert venues and a ton of non-traditional and pop-up locations.
Ultimately, digital and self-serve technologies are proving to be both the great enabler and great equalizer of modern retail transformation. And we are both humbled and proud at Signifi to be a part of these modernizing conversations.